SAVANNAH, Tenn. — Vanderbilt used a stirring 10th frame rally and the firepower of a balanced lineup to propel itself to a perfect 5-0 record and the No. 2 seed after two days of the Lady Techster Invite on Saturday.
The Commodores were 62 pins behind top-seed Louisiana Tech and those two will square off in Sunday’s first round with the winner advancing to the championship round. The tournament championship will be determined by the familiar collegiate Baker bracket and not total pins as had previously been announced.
Vanderbilt defeated top-20 ranked Arkansas State, Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin, Lincoln Memorial and Louisiana Tech in order, four of those five rated in the nation’s top 10.
Vandy’s Samantha Gainor won her first collegiate individual championship after constructing scores of 209, 223, 218, 183 and 229. The All-American senior was joined among the tourney’s top 10 by Mabel Cummins in fourth place and Angelica Anthony in ninth.
“We were more competitive today as a group,” Vanderbilt head coach John Williamson said. “We had some close matches – none of our games were run-aways. We had energy in the settee all day, a good thing to see.
“We were also able to play some different lineups. Everyone on our team has to come ready to play as we have a lot of folks capable of contributing and we don’t necessarily know who that will be.”
One day after sputtering with some leftover winter break rust, the Commodores flexed their bowling muscle by running up a solid 992-901 win over ASU, a significant score given the stingy nature of the Savannah Bowling Center. The rotation of Anthony, Amelia Kiefer, Cummins, Gainor and Caroline Thesier were each able to record strike strings with Anthony and Cummins enjoying runs of four.
The Dores blew open a relatively tight game with Sam Houston, aided by a five-bagger by Cummins and a closing six-bagger by Gainor to win 977-857. They next topped SFA with Amanda Naujokas entering for Kiefer and adding a 200 to Gainor’s 218.
The big rally came in the fourth match when it appeared Lincoln Memorial had the Commodores over the bowling barrel in the closing frames. But Gainor doubled in the ninth and tenth, Cummins struck and the Railsplitters suffered costly opens in their fourth and anchor spots.
The heat was on the freshman Thesier, who needed to mark and get count for the win and she delivered with a spare-strike for a 938-934 win.
“Caroline needs the experience and every opportunity to make shots like that,” Williamson noted. “We have great confidence in her but there is nothing like gaining the confidence to know you have made those shots before.”
The upbeat day ended with a high quality battle with Tech, who had beaten the Dores yesterday in Baker play. Amanda Naujokas had a brilliant 237 and Gainor added her 229 as Vanderbilt notched its highest score of the day – a 1,024-979 win.
Williamson was not surprised by Gainor’s individual win.
“Sam won today by being steady and executing,” he said. “She might have had one missed-makeable spare yesterday and maybe one today. With no unforced errors, you are taking care of what you can take care of. It’s a compliment to her as she’s done that for four years.”
Sunday’s bracket play begins at 8:25 a.m.